Race in America: See the Person First?

Over Easter, I chatted with someone who currently works for a network news outlet and naturally NBC New’s epic editing fail, and the subsequent fallout came up. My companion, who has spent time in the editing booth, said he doubted the edit was accidental, and added, “We’re forgetting our job — it’s only to inform.”

A press meant to inform, not inflame. What a concept!

Our conversation spun all over the place, until someone at the table said, “if you think about it, all of our problems as a nation can be laid at the feet of the press and their inability or unwillingness to just tell a story without spinning it.”

There might be something to that, but I wonder if part of the press’ problem is that they don’t see human beings, anymore, as individual persons before them; they see identity groups into which persons can be fitted and toward which narratives can be spun, but fixating on identifiers is like not seeing a tree, for the forest. It misses the fact that groups are just individual people, and people, more than anything else in the world, want to know that they — their individual, unique selves — matter; that their loveableness is seen by someone and appreciated. People like Mother Teresa know this instinctively; the rest of us often have to be reminded.

The death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman has brought a lot of heat and not yet much light, and there are some who seem to be delighting in the potentially destructive expansion of that heat in all directions. People — individual people — are going unseen in the targeting of group-identities. Both the press and our elected leadership seem content to abrogate their responsibilities and behave unwisely.

Which is why, perhaps, we need to look away from the press and the government, and start sharing with each other stories like this one from Tony Rossi — stories about real, individual people who are managing to live real lives together, in real love and respect.

One day back in 1986, a 35-year-old newspaper executive named Laura Schroff was walking on a street in Manhattan when she was approached by a boy who asked if she had any spare change. At first she ignored him by simply walking on by, but something made her turn and go back. The boy’s name was Maurice Mazyck, and he was 11. Schroff had no change to give him, but asked him instead if she could buy him a lunch at McDonald’s. Since lunch was the reason he was asking for change to begin with, that was fine with him. And that meal would begin a friendship that has endured down through the years, one that would change both their lives forever . . . Unlikely might not be the best word to describe Laura and Maurice’s friendship; unbelievable is probably more like it. One was an adult, the other a child; she is white, he’s black; she lived in a luxury high-rise, and he in a welfare hotel. Still their relationship flourished as it grew.

Read more here. The class-warfare rhetoric and race-baiting is all around us and it’s an election year, which means it’s probably not going away anytime soon. This story and this book are timely reminders that actually seeing the human person placed before us, not as a “type” or as a member of some “group”, but as simply another human being with a common need to be acknowledged, can defeat all of that.

UPDATE:
Instapundit’s reader: yes, we’re in an ugly place
, right now.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Bill M.

    I’ve heard race grifters like Al Sharpton likened to arsonists. It’s an apt image, and suits much of the media as well.

  • http://www.dymphnaswell.blogspot.com Dymphna

    I totally agree with you. We need to share these stories with each other and continue to look for alternate sources of information.

    I also think that members of *all* groups (including those of us in the Church) could learn from your call to see people as individuals and not as a “type” or member of a particular group. We need to take care not to bow to the pressure to think of ourselves as a part of the spiritual “in” crowd and push others out.

  • GA Dean

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. “Identity Politics” is a poison, but it has long roots. Much evil in the world can be traced to the human habit of reducing individuals to an abstract label, class or race. The epistles of Paul indicate that the early Christian Church had its own problem with discord over “identity” issues.

    To see, as you say, only the race and not the man, is to turn a unique living being (an image of God no less!) into an object, a sin akin to idolatry. It is the root of racism, among other evils, and is only slightly less objectionable if one’s intent is to aid the disadvantaged class. Even if your motives are kind, to treat a person as a racial avatar is to deny them their humanity.

  • TXRed

    Karl Marx gets some credit for the modern political idea that one has an identity only as part of a group. Given the influence Marxism (and its descendents) has on modern intellectual culture, it is not surprising that political groups, some in the media, “community organizers” and others feel compelled to batch everyone, then make decisions based on their view of the batches. And yes, I’m aware that “all [blanks] are [blank] and must be treated/ restricted/ eliminated/ respected” goes back thousands of years; for example, the Hindu caste system.

  • doc

    Anchoress, you need to inform your companion she has no future in the corporate media with an attitude like that. It is the self-appointed task of the corporate media to elect Democrats and push a progressive agenda. If it costs them their brand and reputation, it still beats seeing Republicans win elections. At least the corporate media still have each other to issue awards and receive adulation. Plus, they’ll always be able to get a job in a Democrat administration.

  • dry valleys

    The “corporate media” can’t be very good corporations, if they go out of their way to do things that lose them money?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Valleys, who says they’re any “good”—either as coporations, or anything else?

    (In the entertainment business, they’re pretty much all progressives—and they see the Democrats as their meal ticket, and the ones to help them push their agenda. As doc says, they depend on the Dems to support them—”They’ll always be able to get a job in a Democrat administration.” It’s part of the 60′s long march through our institutions.)

    doc, yes, I agree; this young woman doesn’t have much of a future in the coporate media—too sane for that. She may have a very good future as a writer, though.

    And, yes, identity politics, and group-think, is a great evil of our time (it has a long history, of course.) We’re going to have to choose between a nation run by rule of law, or a nation run by mobs, with various identity and ethnic groups constantly at each other’s throats.


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